It’s an uncomfortable sight:
That’s the amount of space I have left on my main editing drive, a 2TB firewire 800 affair. My other editing drive is worse, giving the proverbial sardines a run for their money in the “tightly packed” stakes. I’ve even resorted to using my desktop drive (which we all know we shouldn’t use for video editing) and even that has less than 100GB available from a totoal of 2TB.
With so little space, the drives’ performance starts to suffer and of course you can’t add new footage. Time for some new drives, and large enough to cope with two or three big film projects and still have room to spare. With that requirement, you have to start looking beyond the usual Western Digital-type external drives you find in FNAC or MediaMarkt. With a budget of ~£1000 I was looking for 12TB of Network Attached Storage (NAS) and thought I’d settled on a QNAP 469 with four, 3TB Seagate SATA III hard drives.
But then I started getting a little jittery (that’s a lot of money after all). My editing machine at the moment is a 2010 iMac i5. Apple, being Apple, had put a below-par network card in this machine. It supports Gigabit ethernet, but not, amazingly, jumbo frames. I was a little concerned that without this support, the drive speed wouldn’t be as good as firewire 800, which is 100MB/s. I’d been reading on the internet that people were getting transfer speeds with NAS drives and this iMac of around 50MB/s which is not good enough for editing. So I started looking at a G-Tech G-Speed Q firewire drive. I didn’t really want to get firewire; the beauty of a NAS is that it connects to the computer over ethernet, so you can just set it up and forget about it, even have the unit in another room. A firewire drive would take up my sole firewire port and I’d have to watch where I put my feet so as not to pull out the cable.
So I took the risk and bought the NAS. I figured I’d learn more at least anyway.
Very easy this one. Insert the four hard drives, connect the unit to a gigabit ethernet switch (I use the Netgear GS108) and connect the mac to the switch as well.
I’m not an expert on how RAID works. All I know is that it allows you to link together several hard drives into a single volume and offers different levels of protection against data loss. If I was using a single disk and that disk failed, I’d very likely lose all the data. With a RAID however, that wouldn’t be the case, depending on what RAID level I’m using. I experimented with RAID 1+0, and RAID 5.
Checking the disk performance with Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, RAID 1+0 came out on top: a whopping 100.5 MB/s read/write. (Those fears about speeds were unfounded, but I think that what jumbo frames does is to take the load off the CPU in processing the ethernet data.) RAID 1+0 can survive two disk failures, as long as the disks are not adjacent to each other. The penalty is that the capacity is reduced to 50% of the total array size, so in this case I’d have 6TB available.
RAID 5 only uses one disk to store the protection information, so would give me a total of 9TB. The trade-off is that only one disk failure can be tolerated. If a second drive were to fail before you replaced the first faulty one, the data would be gone. There’s also a slight speed penalty; the Balckmagic app was giving me a read/write speed of about 94MB/s. I can live with that!
NLEs and NAS
Next step is to get the editing software working with the NAS.
FCP: No problem. FCP don’t care where the media is. Set your Capture Scratch folder to wherever on the NAS and it’s good to go.
Davinci Resolve: Little confusing this one. I navigate to the NAS and select a folder in the top level, but this only appears as “/”, the absolute top level of the computer. A test sequence sent to Resolve works, but first, in the conform window, I have to navigate to the NAS folder where the media is for Resolve to bring it in to a session.
ProTools: No problems here. Set the Volume to “Record” in the Workspaces window and it’s ready to go.
Avid: Heh heh, Avid. This one really does care where your media is and it has to be in the the Avid MediaFiles folder on the drive top level. Normally this is automatically created and normally Avid only likes network storage like ISIS, way beyond my current budget. And in any case, I’m only one editor, and ISIS is geared towards large post houses with several editors working on a project. Initially Avid didn’t recognise my NAS, but typing ALLDRIVES into the console window tells Avid to recognise every drive on the system as a media drive. This works but there’s an annoying feature that tells me Avid can’t save the project when I create a new bin or click Save. The project does get saved, so why this is happening needs some figuring out. Anyway, performance seems to be good for now and it’s very nice to see this: